Tag Archives: Postal service
[Surveyor] Mr. Briggs will have explained to you our purpose of running a mail below the[Appalachian] mountains to N. Orleans by Tuckabatché & Fort Stoddart. from this last place to the mouth of Pearl river it must pass thro’ the territory possessed by Spain but claimed by us. Colo. Monroe left London the 8th. of Oct. for Madrid to settle that point. while it is under negociation we think both parties should cautiously refrain from innovating on [make changes in] the present state of things. for this reason we think it proper to ask the consent of the Spanish government.
Thomas Jefferson to William C.C. Claiborne, January 7, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders seek to minimize conflict.
Claiborne (c. 1774-1817) governed the Territory of Orleans, later to become the state of Louisiana. He knew of Thomas Jefferson’s plan to establish a new southern postal route from Washington to New Orleans that avoided crossing the mountains.
While the Louisiana Purchase conveyed what had been Spanish land west of the Mississippi River, ownership of lands along the Gulf Coast east of that river were in dispute. Jefferson claimed them, of course, but Spain maintained they were never meant to be transferred with the western lands.
The new postal route would include about 70 miles “possessed by Spain but claimed by us.” Ambassador James Monroe was en route to Spain to negotiate the matter. In the meantime, it would be best to have the consent of Spanish officers in New Orleans rather risk diplomatic offense or armed conflict.
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… I am personally a stranger among the neighbors there [at Poplar Forest, near Lynchburg, VA] … and [I] have never had the opportunity of making myself personally acceptable to them by any particular service. it is so pleasant to possess the good will of those among whom we live that I have wished occasions of acquiring it, & one now offers particularly interesting …
I have now stated facts [all the reasons why Lynchburg merits better postal service.]; you will decide on them …. may I ask the favor of you, when you shall have seen what you can do … to let the communication pass through me. I have candidly stated in the beginning of my letter, my sole motive for this, that I may acquire the good will of those among whom I pass a considerable time, not for any interested purpose, but merely to make myself happier, but whatever you do, I shall be satisfied it is right …
To Gideon Granger, September 20, 2010
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Servant leaders always look for ways to benefit others.
Retired from the Presidency for a year and a half, Jefferson now spent more time at Poplar Forest, his get-away plantation near Lynchburg. He lamented not knowing his neighbors well and wanted to change that by offering some service to them. What they needed was better postal service, currently just one delivery each week. Jefferson saw a way to earn the friendship and esteem of his neighbors.
Thus, he wrote to Granger, his Postmaster General for eight years, now filling the same role for President Madison. Jefferson didn’t propose more service, which would have cost more. Rather, he proposed better service, outlining faster delivery routes and a more convenient schedule. The result would be better service at the same cost.
Now came the favor Jefferson requested. If Granger granted the changes, would he communicate that through him? That would give him the pleasure of announcing it to his neighbors. His service to them might result in their friendship toward him. That’s all he wanted.
Regardless of Granger’s decision, Jefferson in advance approved the rightness of his choice.
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As far as can be judged from the maps, the road from Fort Stoddert ought to bear down South Westwardly, to get into the Spanish road leading from Mobille to Baton Rouge, before it crosses Pascagoule river. then follow that road (which is nearly due West) till it crosses Pearl river. then quit it & go nearly due South to the neck … [depending upon] the person you employ, whose examination on the spot must controul our ideas where they are impracticable.
To Gideon Granger, April 24, 1806
According to Lafon’s map … of the Environs of N. Orleans, it may seem doubtful whether it is best to cross the Pearl river at the Spanish road & come down on the West side to the Rigolet at Stikinoula, or to take off from that road on the East side of the river where it is intersected by one of the Indian paths travd by Lafon, & come down to Bois-doré … but these circumstances can be estimated only by persons on the spot.
To Gideon Granger, April 25, 1806
The Jefferson Leadership Blog began February 21, 2011. This is the 500th post. 😀
Today, May 5, 2015, is the 25th Anniversary of my first presentation as Thomas Jefferson. 😯
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Not all leadership issues are grand ones. Or necessary ones.
Granger has been Jefferson’s Postmaster General for almost five years. On several occasions, the President’s correspondence dealt quite minutely with proposed routes for postal riders. These letters are examples.
There were very few established roads. Postal riders used a combination of roads, paths, Indian trails, and rivers. Where none of those were helpful, the rider would blaze his own trail on horseback, armed with a hatchet for clearing the way.
Jefferson-the-empiricist consulted the best maps available, made his observations but didn’t make the call. Jefferson-the-delegator favored decisions made locally rather than in Washington City. He wanted someone who knew the area personally, maybe the one who would actually ride it, to choose the route.